Kathmandu: The government has introduced new rules to regulate the use of social media, citing the recent misuse of social media.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology had prepared guidelines for regulating the use of social media, which were approved by the Cabinet meeting held on Friday.
The guidelines mention various aspects related to social media platforms, including listing social media platforms, responsibilities of social media platform operators, and responsibilities of social media users.
Minister Rekha Sharma stated ‘The government has determined that a separate law is required following the execution of the provisions of any other law for the way social media has evolved and is now used. It is believed that if this occurs, it will be easier for people to understand, behave, and adopt, hence a new and distinct law is being attempted.’
Listing within 3 months
According to the guidelines, social media platforms operating in Nepal must be listed within three months and renew their licenses every three years. Social media platforms that are not listed can be shut down at any time as per the directive. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology will establish a ‘Social Media Management Unit’ for the listing and licensing of social media platforms.
As mentioned in the guidelines, “Registered social media platform operators must renew their licenses every three years. Unregistered social media platforms can be shut down at any time by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.”
19 prohibited activities
The guidelines have listed 19 activities as ‘prohibited’ for social media, addressing distortions and conflicts seen on social media platforms. Rekha Sharma, the government spokesperson and Minister of Communications and Information Technology stated in an interview with a Neapalpag, “The objective is not to restrict citizens’ views and freedom of expression. These guidelines have been issued for the self-regulation of users.”
The guidelines have also prohibited creating fake or impersonated identities (fake IDs). It is forbidden to produce content related to subject matter prohibited by law, such as child pornography, human trafficking, polygamy, child marriage, and other activities. Hate speech, defamation, spreading misleading information, manipulation, publication, and distribution are also prohibited.
Digital media is not allowed to publish or broadcast any person’s image distorted through digital means, except for public figures. Any form of indecent language, images, videos, audio animations, publication, and distribution is restricted.
Nepal Journalist Association’s former president Tara Nath Dahal mentioned the need for considering issues and political rights in formulating laws for regulating social media. “The directive has not been made public, and it should be reviewed carefully,” he said. “The prevailing laws stipulate that only those actions that are illegal can be punishable. The government cannot make actions punishable that are not prohibited by law, except in exceptional cases, which must be determined by the court.”
The directors should also be regulated.
Social media platform operators cannot place their own advertisements for their own happiness. However, they must continuously publish or broadcast educational materials and awareness for the benefit and safety of social media users.
If a social media platform operator publishes or broadcasts material that violates the law, they must promptly remove and identify that material with confidence. If someone sends or intends to send material that is not suitable for social media transmission, the social media platform operator may be directed to remove such material by the regulatory authority or regulator, and this is mentioned in the removal directive by the social media platform operator.
Personal details of social media users must be kept confidential, and the directory includes the development and use of necessary algorithms for that purpose.
The directory states, “Social media platform operators who enhance activities contrary to prevailing laws by blocking the publication or transmission of information, advertisements, and materials, will be required to develop and use algorithms for user integration in social media.”
Safety measures should be implemented for the social media platform’s financial transactions, with payments made mandatory through the banking system. Further guidelines for implementation will be provided by the council after it is published in the official gazette.
After the implementation of the directory, social media platform operators who have no office in Nepal must establish a contact point in Nepal within three months. This applies to major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and others operating in Nepal.
For registration in Nepal, individuals or organizations operating social media platforms with more than one lakh users are required to be present in person or through their representatives or online media.
There is a provision for social media platform operators to remove such content from the directory if it violates the prevailing law. The government encourages these companies to do so.
The government has the plan to stop the operation of social media platforms in Nepal until they comply with the guidelines.
Formation of Units
A unit will be formed within the Ministry of Communication for social media management. This unit will be responsible for registering complaints of misuse related to social media, confirming whether the person has been deceived, confirming information related to allegations or content, and verifying facts related to complaints.
In the unit, as per the need, organizational units of various social media users will be established, and the capacity development of personnel will be undertaken to make their functioning as information technology experts.
Social media platforms operating within Nepal will be divided into two categories based on the number of users: large social media platforms and small social media platforms.
Large social media platforms will have a mandatory right to listen to complaints in residential status and monitor and oversight compliance with regulations. This provision is included in the directory.
The directory mentions that the Ministry of Communications will conduct awareness, educational, research, and capacity development programs for social media management.
The directory also includes provisions for making the misuse of social media a punishable offense. Those who engage in criminal activities will be imprisoned and fined. The Ministry has also been actively investigating the matter. The directory also includes provisions for the Ministry to bring tax liability to social media platform operators and make compliance with government guidance mandatory. The Ministry has also prepared for the necessary preparation.
It is a comprehensive guideline to control the misuse of social media, and the Ministry of Communications is also actively working on it.